Browsing the archives for the Urban Homesteading category.

Butter, oh butter

Making butter is quite easy but for some reason I’ve always viewed it as wasteful and unpractical. I guess I just assumed making butter requires you to use raw milk in it’s entirety (and raw milk is quite the commodity!). Plus, only a small portion of butter results from the whole gallon of milk and I was under the impression the liquid left over once the butter separates is a waste product.

I’ve never felt inclined to make butter myself. Yet I LOVE me some raw butter and as of late it’s been pretty hard to come by… and it so good for you.

The most healthful raw butter is a springtime commodity in the milking world.

Cows fed on rapidly growing spring grass produce milk that contains high levels of beta carotene and five times the amount of CLA, an essential fatty acid that has a strong anti-cancer properties.  (more…)

Big changes are in the works for this homestead!

Over the weekend we got a TON of outside work done here on the half-acre homestead because we just put our house on the market! That’s right, we can’t put it off any longer. Our house is in less that perfect showing condition and is VERY lived in with the five of us crammed in here but we have to at least give selling a try. (more…)

How does anyone with an actual job have time to do all of these crunchy things?!

stay-at-home-momA while back I was the target of some crunchy flaming, as some of you know. Apparently people don’t believe I actually do all the crunchy things I’ve written about and shared here on the blog and it became this debate/ venting session for all of them. Anyway, one of the comments made was…

Does she work or is the blog her full time gig?  How does anyone will an actual job have time to do all of those things? All I do is cloth diaper and I feel like it takes 9 million hours a month (it doesn’t. It just feels that way). I can’t imagine doing all of those other things, too. (more…)

A good deed for puppy = madness for the homestead

Today I took the girls out to the garden for our daily chores. We went out back near the pond today to pick from our other blackberry patch, where there are currently chiggers (thanks to a neighbor’s seriously overgrown grass back there). We have tomatoes & blackberries needing picking, some general bug removal and various other garden chores like spreading compost and planting seeds.

Our work was interrupted by a cute puppy freeing it’s self from the neighbor’s yard and coming right for us…

Now, this neighbor that owns the puppy also owns another young dog that frequently escapes their yard so when I saw the puppy escape their yard I knew acting fast was necessary. But a pregnant lady with 2 young kids can only act so quickly – and I was not quick enough.

Garden murder and more…

As avid organic gardeners, our days are spent waging war on garden enemies. Typically it’s silly stuff like picking cabbage worms or squash beetles (or similar) off our plants and then feeding them to the chickens. The girls are my little gaarden warriors, they assist me in collecting bugs in a bucket… (more…)

Reuse and repurposing: Our goal- Throwing less into dumps

There are many ways to recycle, reuse and conserve from day to day. You just have to look at things differently. As I become more and more earth friendly I discover new ways to reporpose, reuse and recycle.
For me, a focus on repourposing and reuse has been what we’ve continued to expand on. Can you believe this family of 4 only fills a regular treash can with dump-bound trash about every 2-3 weeks?
We’ve dramatically reduced the about of stuff that is dump-bound by:
  1. Composting kitchen scraps or giving it to our rabbits & chickens.
  2. Hauling our own recycling to a recycling center once a month.
  3. Basing our buying choices partly on product packaging.
  4. Buying less throwaway stuff, spending less money.
  5. Reusing things like mad.

Since it’s earth day, I’d like to share some of what we’ve got going on here at home where reuse is concerned and I’d love for you to share what you having going too. The more ideas we compile the “greener” we’ll all be right? (more…)

Keeping chickens & eating them: Thoughts on our first experience processing

It’s a cold and gloomy day here, we are in the upper 50′s this afternoon and the vibe is very lazy.

Everly has been watching childrens movies on the couch today, specifically snow related holiday ones. She knows the seasons are changing and is excitedly dreaming of lots of snow this winter.

I’ve been spending some much needed time on my own blog’s todo list between caring for the girls and the home.

On days like today an effortless, home-cooked, nourishing meal is best. So, I’ve got one of our roosters in the soup pot in prep for Everly’s favorite dinner, chicken and dumplings.

Remember my blog post about Helga Crowing back in September? We always knew we needed to learn the art of chicken processing, for the sake of self sufficiency, homesteading and respect for the life cycle/ process but we weren’t all that excited about it. If we were keeping chickens and eating chicken we knew that it was logical to be able to process them when their time was up.

We’d heard lots of negative hype surrounding killing and processing your own meat so we weren’t sure if we’d be efficient and effective… Or if the process would sit well with us. The morning a rooster crowed we knew it was time to find out. Turns out we had two surprise roosters.

Luckily, Nathan was a champ and he singlehandedly remedied that situation, he did great.  Once the bloody part was over the girls and I came home, we went to the store so no gory blood scenes would be witnessed.

When it came to plucking we were pleasantly surprised and Everly was curious. Chicken feathers are her favorite so she was curiously watching all the feathers that would soon be hers. I think we’ll make a dreamcatcher with some eventually.

 Two roosters went in the freezer that night and today I am finally cooking one up. Thanks to Helga #1 we’ll enjoy a homemade, nourishing meal on this cold fall evening. Thanks Helga for your meat and for the learning experience.


A peek inside the Ryder Homestead – 2012

Here is how the growing season shaped up in 2012:

Got something you’d love to see us blog about in detail when it comes to the garden? Let us know:

I’m no Martha Stewart… As you’ll see.

Since I have no staff to do my grunt work, test my recipes and generally make me look good it’s no surprise I’m not showcasing “Martha Stewart” quality baked goods right? Somehow that fact doesn’t make my pissed-off-at-the-damn-pie-dough attitude any better today…

Mama had a melt down last night. Almost two days of solo parenting was coming to a close, we just picked 24lbs of cherries, canned some rhubarb and were on to making/ eating dinner and making a cherry pie. Everly was helping with everything too (which means it took my brainpower to direct and supervise her).

After many attempts at rolling the chilled dough, the dough-covered rolling pin flew from my hands at high speed and crashed in to the cabinets before falling to the floor. I threw it, I was so mad! And my kids had to witness it.

I have an explosive anger tendency that is typically well managed. Last night, the first time since becoming a mother, it reared it’s ugly head. Luckliy, unlike some wife-beating relatives, my anger isn’t people directed but it is still a nasty thing to carry around.

Today I took another stab at the pie crust and was partly successful but still unpleased. Here is why:

Whether it was the newly introduced animal lard I used (instead of the yucky Crisco/ vegetable shortening I have mastered) or the fact that I had kids underfoot, the pie didn’t turn out as I had hoped it would… but I am damn glad it’s finished. May be ugly but it IS done.

This whole city dweller gone homesteading wife thing is both a challenge and an adventure. Growing to eat and then eating all you grow is a valuable learning experience for us (and most city raised people) that is littered with bumps along the way. Most of the time bumps are met with humor. Occasionally struggles seem impossibly hard and things are thrown.

And why are you blogging this total failure?

Because I think it is important to embrace the bad with the good and “keep it real”. I hate seeing all those “I am so amazing look at me” posts from people who try to put themselves out there as these shiny, perfect little things. It isn’t real and it doesn’t help me when I am looking for solutions.

So if you land here looking for homemade animal lard pie crust tips or experiences, revel in my failure and laugh. It is one of these moments and that is okay…

The next time I try out Betty Crocker’s damn pie crust recipe I’ll be sure to do it without kids underfoot because I believe the temperature and the dough combined with the amount of water added is key as well as timely action when the dough conditions are right.

Pastry for pies and tarts - Two-Crust Pie Recipe

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup +2 tablespoons shortening
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons cold water

Betty Crocker says:

Pie pastry that is too tender or falls apart is caused by too little water or too much shortening.

Pie pastry that is dry in merely, or not flakey is  caused by shortening being cut into finely or too little water.

Gee that’s helpful. Thanks Betty!  - Nope.

If you have animal lard pie crust tip or perl of wisdom please do share it in the comments. This blogger could use some HELP!


Toying with lawn alternatives, cheap flower bulbs, huge cow bones and chicken poop ideas.

We had quite the eventful weekend around here. Most of our progress was homesteading related of course.

We built a spiffy fence panel that will divide our deck area from the rest of the backyard so that the free ranging chickens won’t be able to come up onto the deck and cover it with poop this year.


While grocery shopping over the weekend we scored some fun discount flowering bulbs to add to our garden that include hyacinth, lily of the valley and peony.

Bulb buying tip: buy spent plants!

I love buying the reject pots of decorative seasonal flower bulbs that have already bloomed. Sooo many people over look these for lack of knowledge about the plant and don’t realize they CAN be planed in the garden and will rebloom next year.

Also, the discount/ reject price is often way lower than what you’d pay for the plain old bulb it’s self in a catalog.

Take my hyacinth bulbs for example (I am so very excited about these!). I scored them for just under $1 a bulb when they normal sell in catalogs for $8-12 a piece. That is anywhere from a $63-$99 savings on the nine hyacinth bulbs I bought. Squee!!

Nathan planted about 5 rows of corn this weekend so now we have the tomato trellis behind our back garden fence and a mini cornfield growing in addition to our square-foot garden beds and our sunflower/bean tee-pee that we added this year.

One of the things we’ve been particularly annoyed with this year is the lack of grass freely growing in our front and backyard.

We decided to experiment with grass alternatives instead of re-seeding the lawn this year. Not only is re-seeding the lawn a financial burden but it also wastes a lot of water and precious time that could be spent focusing on more important things.

So, in the backyard we have several wild clover transplants that we are allowing to take over since all the dormant grass roots have been ripped out by our rambunctious, running dog. All winter and spring the backyard has been a mud bog.

Clover is a great, low growing ground-cover that the chickens will enjoy eating plus it doesn’t require as much mowing. When it blooms the flowers will benefit wild bees and the bees will benefit our garden, added bonus! Hopefully the clover will better withstand our soggy winter months and all the foot traffic!

In the front yard we are converting the lawn to a cottage garden that is a mix of flowering perennials and edible annuals. We already have a service berry bush bordered in irises as the focal point of the yard. When it’s done the goal is that it will not only be visually appealing but also a great source of produce for our family.

We also remedied our restless dog syndrome. Some of you may have seen my post on Facebook about our latest dog frustrations.

Dixie has been ripping our chicken fencing so that she can get to and scarf the chicken feed each day. Not only is this frustrating because she is destroying the fencing but it’s also frustrating because she’s taking food away from the chickens who need it right now since our yard has no grass for them to eat.

Turns out, a giant cow bone can occupy a high energy dog for days and days. The bone may have been the best $10 we’ve ever spent.

So those are the updates here on the half-acre homestead. How does your garden grow? Are you working on anything new this spring for the house or garden?